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Trigger Maintenance

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A great option available on a few top euphonium brands is the tuning slide trigger. No euphonium will ever be made that is perfectly in tune. The modern crop is pretty good, but there are still notes that need adjustment. Fortunately, most of the adjustment needed is to bring the note's pitch down, which a trigger can solve.

Some trumpets/cornets use pivoted triggers instead of a simple pull ring. These are fairly simple because the trigger is pushed very close to the slide it adjusts. However, for euphoniums the trigger is activating a slide that is much further away, so the mechanism is more complicated. Also, the trigger is moving a much larger slide. For these reasons it is necessary to keep the trigger in top condition for a euphonium.

The first consideration is using the correct lubricant for the tuning slide. I have found that trombone slide grease is the best choice by far. See this post for more details:

Proper Grease for Triggers

The next step is to lubricate the pivot points. For this I prefer a synthetic valve oil because it lasts longer and makes less of a mess.

Start with the pivot point. Put some oil on the ends of the bar and on the spring. Just look at the way it moves and see what parts move against each other. That should be your target. And I still put oil on the spring because it does move, even though it is hard to see that action.

The next step is to put some oil on the other pivot points. On my horn these are shown within the blue circles in the photo below:

If you look in those blue circles you will see there are screws that attach the end piece. Those should be checked to make sure they stay tight.

The tips above would apply to most trigger mechanisms in some way or other.

For the Sterling trigger there is one more thing to keep an eye on, which we discovered at the Army Conference. Within the circles in the photo on the left are the joints in this mechanism, where the brass adjustment threaded piece (gold color) joins the steel end piece (silver color). Those joints should remain tight. The "Photoshopped" picture to the left shows how it should look (green circle) and how it looks if it starts to work loose (red circle). This is preventable. The joint will be soldered on future production models.

On my own horn, I have used it for a year and the joints have stayed nice and tight. But if you are concerned or if you see that these joints have gotten loose, you can do one of two things. You can take the horn to a repair shop and have a little solder sweated into the joint. Or you can take it apart, put some thread-lock compound on the small threads (the ones that should stay hidden), and reassemble it. Thread-lock compound is available in most hardware stores or automobile supply stores. It can be bought in a small tube for a few dollars (and is handy stuff to have around the house).

This trigger improvement is one of the many ways where Paul Riggett has listened to feedback from users of Sterlings in order to make constant improvements. I asked him at the show what he has done over the last several years to make such a nice improvements in the horn and he had a hard time compiling an answer. He has simply kept making many little improvements each year, which add up to a remarkable instrument. During the year since I got my Virtuoso he has made many incremental improvements. It's one of the advantages of being a small, custom manufacturer. He is much more closely in touch with the people who play the horns and is in a good position to learn from them.

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  1. hntjr's Avatar
    I was hoping you would address the lubricant used for the trigger valve inserts into the horn. To be clear in the second photo, where the female black ring tube is being inserted into the male tube. I was about to use Hetman Tuning Slide Grease 8, that I use on my other tuning slides, but stopped to ask the question.